A career as a zookeeper is a dream job for many people! We imagine zookeepers playing with animals all day with cuddles and snacks on a silver platter. While there is a smidge of truth that zookeepers are surrounded by animals, a large part of that image people have connects more with Disney© films than reality.
Zookeepers work extremely hard. Their job is very physical. It implies the upkeep and maintenance of vast living spaces, the preparation of foods not always appetizing to humans (but oh so delicious for our residents!), and working in extreme weather conditions. Whether it’s raining or snowing, if it’s 40 above or 40 below, the animals must receive the same exceptional care!
Despite all that, those that choose a career as animal keepers are passionate beings that will tell you they can imagine nothing else. The closeness and confidence developed with the animals that inhabit the zoo is an incredible privilege. And many small successes bring a daily feeling of pride: the reaction of an animal to a special enrichment provided with thought and care, the progress of another with their training sessions, or even the small signs that an animal is more confident in their presence.
Zookeepers experience great joys with the zoo residents, but sometimes also great sorrow. Saying a final farewell to an animal one has cared for over months and even years is always difficult. Sometimes death is sudden and surprising, and sometimes we can see it coming. But that never makes the mourning period easy to bear. Zookeepers hold steadfast to their routines however and continue to move forward for all the other animal residents. They simply keep strong memories in their hearts of those who have passed.
Every Ecomuseum Zoo keeper will echo similar messages: no two days are alike! One must be organized, creative and adaptive. A love for animals is of course essential and the basis for the job, but it is not sufficient to excellent in such a demanding field of work. Each zookeeper at the Ecomuseum Zoo has a CÉGEP or University degree in a related field: biology, ecology, animal health, wildlife management. They put their expertise to work for the cause. They are inventive, building stimulating arrangements for the animals, imaginative, developing strategies to administer certain veterinary treatments to unsuspecting animals, and mostly thankful to have the opportunity to wrap up each day with the feeling of having changed a life just a little bit.
Even though the truth lies far from the Disney ideal when it come to the tasks and responsibilities of the job, the people who do this day in and day out fall much closer. Zookeepers are the true super heroes!